Once again, North Korea fails at major tournament
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — For North Korea, the 2015 Asian Cup is already over.
Three games and three defeats will not make for happy reading back in Pyongyang, especially after genuine hopes that this team could survive the first round of the continental competition.
Group B contained China, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan and was seen as an open one. Yet the team has once again failed at a major tournament. In the 2010 World Cup, the 2011 and 2015 Asian Cups, North Korea has lost eight of its nine games.
But this time is more disappointing after 2014 proved a great year for North Korea in youth tournaments. The nation won Asia’s under-16 championship and reached the final of the U19 edition and the U23 Asian Games.
Perhaps this tournament came too soon for North Korea’s young stars and coach Jo Tong Seob is already looking ahead to the 2018 World Cup.
“This tournament in Australia will be very good experience and motivate our team for further success, including qualification for the 2018 World Cup,” Jo said. “In my opinion, at the senior level, we don’t have enough ability to read the games compared to the other teams and physical preparation is also a problem.”
In Australia, the team lost its opening match against Uzbekistan 1-0 in a dull performance and then, despite taking the lead against Saudi Arabia, ended on the wrong side of a 4-1 scoreline. In the final game Sunday, China scored after 45 seconds through Sun Ke who added his second just before halftime. The one positive against China was that North Korea fought back from 2-0 down at halftime to 2-1 and came very close to earning a point.
“As you know, we played much better in the second half and we were unlucky,” Jo said. “Looking back, our matches were not satisfactory but I think this was a valuable experience for the whole team, and those at home I’m sure are not very happy but they will continue to encourage us.”
Not in Australia, though. Once again, the team is leaving a major tournament after failing to make a real impact.